Pope Francis has blamed "this lady called COVID" for forcing him to keep his distance again from the faithful during his general audience. Francis again eschewed a protective mask Wednesday, and while the prelates wore masks throughout the hourlong audience, they took them off when they lined up to shake Francis' hand and speak briefly with him one-on-one. Francis told the crowd, "If I come down, immediately people will form groups ... and this is against the care, the precautions, we must have in the face of this lady named COVID, who is doing us much harm." The Rev. Augusto Zampini, a key member of Francis' COVID-19 response commission, acknowledged Tuesday that at age 83 and with part of his lung removed after an illness in his youth, Francis would be at high risk for complications if he were to become infected, reports the AP.
Zampini said he hoped Francis would don a mask at least when he greeted people during the general audience. "We are trying to convince him, we are almost there," he said, per Reuters. Francis has only been seen wearing a mask in public twice: on Sept. 9 as he entered and exited his general audience, and last week during a two-hour interfaith prayer service in downtown Rome. While Francis' lung condition could explain his reluctance to wear a mask, there has been no comment from the Vatican about why protocol officials allow other people to get close to him without donning face protection. People who've had private meetings with him recently said no masks were worn and no proof of recent negative virus tests was required.
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